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As customer-relationship management applications proliferate in large businesses, getting those systems to communicate is a growing problem. Customer information in a sales database is useless for a call-center worker if the sales and call-center systems define "customer" differently. To help solve the problem, Wheelhouse Corp. next month will ship software for managing customer data across disparate CRM systems.
Wheelhouse CRM Director manages the metadata or business definitions of information in operational, legacy, and analytic CRM systems. Within large companies, one CRM system might use "customer" to refer to the ultimate user of a product, while another defines dealers or retail partners as the customers.
The Wheelhouse software provides a central repository for master definitions of business terms and a way to propagate those definitions out to CRM systems. IT managers have other options for creating data synchronicity, such as building a centralized data warehouse or buying all CRM applications from a single vendor. But few companies buy all their CRM applications from one vendor, and data warehouses are expensive and can cause latency problems.
"It's a new approach to aggregating customer data," Forrester Research analyst Eric Schmidt says. Wheelhouse is a viable alternative to "very expensive, time-consuming data-warehouse projects" and enterprise application integration tools that are more geared toward integrating processes rather than data. But Wheelhouse might be a tough sell because budgets for back-office integration are tight, he says.
In addition to the repository, CRM Director includes business definition source-destination mapping capabilities, templates for building data definitions for vertical industries, and XML output capabilities. The vendor also is developing tools to manage business policies across CRM systems. Available in March, the software will start at $150,000.